Third graders impress education board with their world language skills

Third grade world language returned to Cider Mill School this year, and the results blew the Board of Education away.

During the board’s Nov. 19 meeting, French teacher Paul Kueffner, Spanish teacher Rosemary Dellinger and a group of five third graders demonstrated what students have learned so far this year.

With seemingly little effort and very few errors, the children conversed with Kueffner and one another and sang the alphabet in French, showing show just how much they have learned in a matter of three months.

To hear the third graders singing the alphabet, click here.

Dellinger said when she learned Cider Mill would be offering Spanish to third graders this summer, she decided to learn the guitar so she could use it to sing songs in Spanish with the third graders.

With the same group of students, Dellinger “proved what elements a third grade Spanish class offers.”

To watch Dellinger teach third grade Spanish with her guitar, click here.

“We have lots and lots of tricks in Spanish,” said Dellinger, who demonstrated how her students learn Spanish with the help of her guitar and props.

“One thing we do is right away, after we greet each other, I greet the students with song,” said Dellinger, who sang a song requiring students to sing in response to something she says.

“One thing we have to do is incorporate culture in what we teach,” said Dellinger. “A hypothetical is if our students were to go to a Spanish-speaking country, could they carry on a very simple conversation with a student that they might meet?”

Dellinger explained how the students learn the three different Spanish forms of “you” — singular and informal “tú,” singular and formal “usted,” and the plural, formal or informal “ustedes” — by using puppets.

The third graders just finished a unit in the Spanish alphabet, said Dellinger.

“In teaching the alphabet in Spanish there are four extra letters,” she said, which the group of students pronounced for the board.

“Before we teach the alphabet, we teach a very important song with five letters of the alphabet that are particularly difficult,” said Dellinger, who then had the students sing it for the board.

Dellinger said the third graders also recently finished some “family projects,” where they wrote about their families in Spanish.

“It’s pretty amazing for third grade,” said Dellinger. “We have a lot of fun.”

Before third grade world language was revived this school year, Cider Mill had previously offered it, but it was cut from the budget during the fiscal year 2011 education budget process.

According to Dellinger and Kueffner, second graders have to decide which language they want to take in third grade, and about three-fourths sign up for Spanish and one-fourth sign up for French.


Dellinger said having so many props, which she carts around to 12 different classrooms, is the biggest challenge she faces.

“We have five minutes’ travel time [in between classes] and we are literally racing,” she said.

“Third grade requires a lot of hands-on. I have 30 puppets that I bring with me. We do a whole thing on puppets, so I have to bring those with me.”

Kueffner said he faces the same challenge and “it gets to be quite a shuffle.”


Dellinger said the teachers at Cider Mill are “very supportive” and happy to see her and Kueffner come into their classrooms to teach world language.

“One of the reasons they’re so supportive is that we are supporting the curriculum for third grade. The program is meshing with that very well,” said Kueffner.

“We’re moving into the things that they’re covering in science, like habitats and animals, so we’ll be exploring those and reinforcing that and adding another perspective, because we have animals in [French-speaking countries] that they can use and discuss those habitats and make that a real experience.”

Kueffner said it’s expected the students will continue studying the same language once they go to Middlebrook.

Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly said he was “truly impressed” with what the third graders have learned.